Clashes broke out briefly between Israel Police and Palestinian youths at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount complex on Sunday, as thousands of Jewish worshipers visited the Western Wall plaza below. The worshipers were marking Tisha B’av, the Jewish day of mourning that commemorates the destruction of the ancient temples that once stood atop the Temple Mount.
The youths struck police officers and threw rocks at the security personnel in an effort to prevent Jewish visitors from touring the Mount. In an attempt to prevent an escalation of violence, police removed the Jewish visitors and closed the site earlier than planned. One Palestinian man was arrested, police said.
According to the Red Crescent rescue service, some 15 Palestinians were injured in the clashes, which broke out after several Jews disobeyed the site’s ban on public prayer. Nine Jewish men were detained for “disturbing the peace,” police said in a statement. Honenu, an advocacy group that provides legal aid to extremist Jews, said three of them were held for citing verses from prayer, and another for tearing his shirt, a sign of mourning in Judaism.
A total of 983 people visited the site Sunday, including 400 Jewish visitors, the police statement added.
Advocates for Jewish prayer rights at the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest site in Islam, have called on Jews to visit the sensitive area, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif compound or the Noble Sanctuary.
JERUSALEM: Scene from Al-Aqsa compound (Place were Jews cant pray) as Jewish worshipers mark destruction of Temple pic.twitter.com/PoGQgquauX
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) August 14, 2016
Non-Muslims are allowed to visit but not to pray there, under arrangements agreed to by Israel after it captured the area from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.
The Palestinians have accused Israel of trying to change the status quo at the site, a charge Israel has repeatedly and vehemently denied.
Palestinian claims of alleged Israeli intentions to undermine Muslim control of the Temple Mount have been at the heart of a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October 2015, in which 34 Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed. Some 220 Palestinians have died in the same period, most of them when carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, and others in clashes with Israeli security forces, according to Israeli authorities.
Police had boosted their presence in the Old City of Jerusalem for Tisha B’Av, which began Saturday evening and ends Sunday night.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that “hundreds of extra police will be carrying out security measures in and around the Old City of Jerusalem” over the weekend.
Thousand of people flocked to the Western Wall plaza Sunday to recite the prayers and listen to the Book of Eicha, or Lamentations, which tells of the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonian Empire in the 6th century BCE. Some 2,000 people visited the site on Saturday night.
Aside from marking the destruction of the temples, Tisha B’Av also marks other tragedies endured by the Jewish people that are said to have occurred on the same day, including the expulsion edict from Spain in 1492 and the beginning of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942.
AFP contributed to this article.